Community foundation marks International Women's Day

By Barrie Hudson - 5 March 2021


Community Foundation is celebrating the part played by women in the community to mark International Women’s Day - Monday, 8 March.

Swindon Women’s Aid Director Emma Rawlings

Joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We fund some wonderful groups whose projects protect, nurture and champion women and we think that is worth applauding every day, but particularly on International Women’s Day, which exists to honour the achievements of women, raise awareness about equality and fundraise for female-focused charities.

“Among the many groups we support in Swindon there are many, many amazing women doing wonderful work to make life better for their communities and we want to highlight their contribution too.”

Among those groups is The Nelson Trust in Victoria Road, which empowers women who are trying to overcome a range of issues including addiction, abusive relationships, working in the sex industry or suffering mental health problems.

The group, which works with about 400 women, received a community foundation grant from its High Sheriff’s Fund to launch an art group to help women express themselves and give them a creative outlet.

STEP Swindon works with young people on the margins of education of all ages, but received an £8,000 Tampon Tax Fund grant to run a project with teenage girls from two schools deemed to be at risk of exploitation online.

The project, based at The Nythe Centre, looked at body image, self-esteem and the impact of reality TV, with girls who felt pressured to post inappropriate pictures on social media by boys and even older men.

“We were finding we were getting more schools identifying concerns that they had young girls who were putting themselves at risk and we had more girls that were meeting with the wrong peer groups, sending indecent images, using social media excessively and bullying other females because they had an image to keep up,” said project leader Johanna Bryant.

Swindon Women’s Aid has worked in the town since 1975 and in the last year alone has had three Coronavirus Response Fund Grants totalling more than £18,000. 

The most recent grant to the group, which operates helpline and a refuge for women in abusive relationships, is to revamp the gardens and create seating areas at its shelter.

“We want to have the capacity to be able to grow plants that give the staff something to pick for posies to brighten up the apartments when residents first arrive from whatever hell they’ve escaped,” director Emma Rawlings said.

“When new women and their children come into the refuge, it will be delightful to show them a lovely welcoming space which is inviting and where women and children will want to go. This will really add value to the women and children's mental health and wellbeing.”

The Harbour Project in Swindon, which supports 200 asylum seekers and refugees in the town, has been forced to switch its regular English lessons from face-to-face sessions to Zoom because of Covid restrictions. But, said chief executive Claire Garrett, the easier access to lessons, which are vital in helping migrants build a new life, has encouraged more women to take part.

“Some of the women are quite nervous in a male-dominated environment and are having one-to-one help but they wouldn’t have felt able to come in before, so we will look at continuing that,” she said.

The group was aided by a £4,500 grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund.

Mrs Oliver said: “These are just a few of the groups, many run by passionate, resourceful and inspirational women, who are working to give girls and women more self-confidence and more opportunities to change their lives and reach their potential. 

"We are really proud of the part we play in that and also very humbled by the work they do.”

The foundation's website is


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